The hospital has implemented several programs targeting food insecurity, education attainment, health literacy, and health care access.
Nashville General Hospital in Nashville, Tenn. was recently profiled in HealthLeaders for its work addressing social determinants of health (SDoH) and health equity among their patients, including a “food pharmacy” and a faith-based initiative.
"We have a marginalized population,” Joseph Webb, chief executive officer, Nashville General Hospital, told HealthLeaders. “We have the disproportionate impact that occurs on certain populations—which has been pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health disparities seem to surface with any type of epidemic or pandemic particularly as it relates to the marginalized population."
To address food insecurity−a key SDoH−Nashville General Hospital has created a “food pharmacy” program available to any patients who screen positive for food insecurity. All patients, whether in the emergency room or one of the hospital’s clinics, are administered a food screening questionnaire. If patients indicate they are struggling with food insecurity, their physicians will refer them to the food pharmacy, where they can receive free food for 12 weeks. Patients’ needs are reassessed following the 12 weeks.
To further address SDoH and health equity, the hospital has also launched the faith-based initiative, the Congregational Health and Education Network (CHEN), which includes more than 100 congregations. CHEN targets three key areas: education attainment, health literacy, and access to health care. Nashville General Hospital and CHEN partner to provide workforce development programs aligned with the hospital’s health science program, host health literacy forums and share educational materials, and provide health care access information and financial counseling.
The hospital also works to enroll uninsured patients in health plans such as Medicaid, however, in their commitment to improve health equity, they provide health care regardless of their ability to pay.
"We are not going to cure health inequities until there is a more equitable distribution of the social determinants of health,” Webb told the publication. “Social determinants of health are the drivers of health inequities and health disparities. If we cannot address this maldistribution of social determinants of health, how then are we going to ever address health equity?"